By Ric Carter
NEW BERN — On Friday night, March 4, Kitty hollers during the evening news, “Look, there’s a Mason!”
I look up from working on The NC Mason and startle, “Hey, I know him!”
The fellow in the home-grown confederate uniform with the square and compasses patch on the breast is talking to the reporter about their plans for the weekend educating the public and having fun together. He’s Jim White, Grantham 725’s chaplain and also a member of St. John’s 3. I know Jim for his fascination with history. He is a retired North Carolina educator who likes to study and write history.
We listen to the news piece about the reenactment of the Battles of New Berne, billed as the largest-ever event of its kind in the area. They were using the farmlands of Bellair Plantation outside New Bern.
White helped organize the event, lending a hand with scripts for battle reenactments of the March 14, 1862 Battle of New Berne and the February 1, 1864 Battle Of Batchelder’s Creek, and introducing expert speakers during public events.
The next day, I visited the lively, if soggy, historical happening. With just a little searching we began to find some Masons who frequent these gatherings. We found some, and some found us.
It is interesting that so many of the men who enjoy the reenacting hobby are also fans of Freemasonry. It is also convenient that the interest they share is one that would have also been shared by the men they emulate on the field of battle and in the tented camps distributed around the fields of Bellair.
We found John Baucom, a past master of Yadkin 162 in Yadkinville. Baucom helped organize a Confederate Memorial Day celebration in his lodge a few years ago. Many of the costumed reenacting Masons attended the ceremony.
Unanimity 7’s Bill Potts was there from Edenton. He and friends sat around the entrance to his tent smoking pipes and cigars.
Sean Dunham, a young Mason was there from Spencer 543. He’ll be swapping his Civil War costume for overalls when his home lodge holds their Railroad Degree April 2.
As Jim and I wander around the fields and camps, we enjoy lunch and meet interesting folk, a Maine Mason strikes a conversation with Jim thanks to the square and compasses on his chest. He’s new to the town and is happy to find more about visiting lodges there.
The home at Bellair Plantation, built about 1763, is the oldest surviving brick plantation home in North Carolina. It is said to have been spared in 1862 by Burnside’s advancing Union troops thanks to the Masonic affiliation of its owner.
This war of brothers created numberless stories of Masonic Brotherhood in the midst of the horror of war.
Any Mason attending one of these events will find a pleasant and outgoing contingent of fraternal members. How long before we have a traveling affinity lodge featuring degree work in tented lodges with Masons in battlefield regalia?